may 16/RUN

4.1 miles
top of franklin hill turn around
65 degrees

Wow! What a morning! In less than a week everything has turned green and fragrant and summery — not spring because spring in Minnesota is cold and snowy/rainy/muddy. This run felt much better than yesterday’s. Was it the oatmeal I ate today but didn’t yesterday? Before runs, I used to eat cheerios with a banana and walnuts. I even wrote about it on here. But now I eat oatmeal with walnuts, 1 cup of wild blueberries, raisins, and vanilla yogurt. I eat it partly because it tastes good to me, but I also because my almost 48 year old body needs it. It’s so fiddly getting old. Such a need for deliberate, careful attention to the body so it continues to work.

Right after returning home I remembered: I forgot to look at the river. Or, I forgot to remember what the river looked like when I looked at it. This distinction between not looking versus looking but not remembering or putting into words (or images or feelings) what I looked at is something I’ve been thinking about this morning. These two things, 1. looking and 2. remembering/taking note of the looking are things we (can) consciously do. Add to that, something we aren’t aware of: the way the brain filters out visual data and decides what we register as seeing. I’ll stop there, but I have more to write about the brain and vision and attention. Of course, it is also possible that I didn’t even see the river because it was blocked by all of the green!

Speaking of green, I recited Philip Larkin’s wonderful poem The Trees. A great poem to recite while running. I thought briefly about green as grief. For some reason, I struggled to remember the first line for a few minute — “The trees are coming into leaf” — and when I did remember it, I remembered it wrong — “The trees are turning into leaf”. I thought about this transformation in spring, from a rough, gnarled, bare Tree to a soft, filled out, collection of leaves.

Before my run, Scott and I were talking about how some new cars seem to shut off when they’re stopped, and then start up when they begin moving again. I’ve been telling Scott about this phenomenon for at least a year now. I always hear it when I am approaching a stop sign at the beginning of my runs. He would never hear it. We joked that I was doing something to cars that made them stall. I have a reputation for making some things not work — like watches or phones. This morning, while driving RJP to school, they both heard it happen several times. He looked it up and discovered that some new cars are designed to do this now. It saves gas, I guess. I said to him that I heard it because I notice things; I’ve been training for years to give attention to the world, and to notice (and register and wonder about) the things I notice. During my run, I thought about our conversation, and a thought occurred to me: attention is magic. It enables us to witness impossible things — or things that seem impossible to us. I feel like I might be forgetting part of this thought; there was more to this idea of attention and magic that I’m forgetting right now.

10 Things I Noticed (and remembered I noticed)

  1. Mr. Morning! mornied me
  2. no stones stacked on the ancient boulder
  3. some green on the welcoming oaks
  4. an empty over-turned clear plastic cup in front of the porta-potty under the lake street bridge
  5. a strong floral scent
  6. received at least 2 or 3 waves from other runners
  7. several walkers with dogs
  8. at least 2 strollers
  9. the tunnel of trees is completely filled in with green leaves
  10. running straight into the wind, up a hill, 2 bikers were biking so slow behind me that it took forever for them to pass

During the run, I was thinking about spring and winter and stories we tell about how the seasons came to be. I thought about greek myths and Persephone and how many of these explanations involve violence towards women and I wondered about myths from other traditions, like Skywoman as told by Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass.

The other day, I discovered Louise Glück’s Averno and this poem about Persephone:

Persephone the Wanderer/ Louise Glück

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone’s initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
“home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?